Is Wearing Pink At Work A Career Killer?

The Wall Street Journal recently declared that the old fashioned power suit look for professional women is over. The new power look for women includes soft color (like pink), beading, prints, patterns and very feminine tailoring—all of which were once considered fashion sins in the workplace. But then according to an editorial in UT Austin’s campus paper, Read the Horn, young female graduates are taught by career centers to dress as masculine as possible and shy away from feminine colors. Plus women are being fired for showing off too much of their feminine assets and a recent CareerBuilder survey found that pink and red are the least preferred colors worn by CEOs, both female and male. Is there still too much of a stigma surrounding the feminine pink in a professional setting? Is pink at work a career killer?

Teresa Johnson wrote for The Horn, UT Austin’s campus paper:

“Most upsetting is that when colleges (and employers) create a finite standard for keeping women’s attire “professional,” they inevitably err on the side of “masculine.” The BBA guide stipulates that women must always wear long-sleeved shirts with cuffs. You know, like the button-downs men wear.

Communication Career Services makes the same masculine-centered mistake but hardly even tries to clarify a women’s dress code, only stating that it’s too difficult to define (cop out, if you ask me). All it recommends is that women wear Oxford shirts and chinos… boy clothes. The standard completely neglects the wide array of women’s clothing choices and defaults to the same old stuff men wear; the only nod to feminine options is that women can add a colored scarf to the ensemble.”

So when coming out of college women are taught that dressing feminine is a no-no. Young women should be taught that there is a bit of a learning curve for dressing and you do have to earn the right to dress more creatively. Last year Business Insider reported that multiple women have been spotted wearing leopard print shoes at Goldman Sachs. “[Shoes] can’t be wild,” says a source, “but you can wear any color that looks professional.”  But for women that were new at the firm, wearing leopard shoes would have been more of a risk. You have to earn the right to wear certain things and pink may fall into this group too.

According to a new survey from LinkedIn,  when it came to employees dressing inappropriately (too low-cut, etc) in the workplace, 62% of women said that this bothered them versus only 29% of men. “Women pay more attention to how people dress,” says Brooke Moreland, the CEO of told The Grindstone,“I think a lot of women have a group mentality and feel that if one woman dresses inappropriately it represents us all in a negative light. We don’t want our own sexuality to be a factor of how we are perceived in the workplace so we resent the women who ‘take it there’.”

Rachel Aubie, a Research Administration Analyst at McMaster University, says that clothing and age/status in the office are irrevocably linked. “Office attire is affected by the ‘stigma’ attached to being a young person in the workplace,” she says, adding that she overcompensated by dressing more formally than she was required to. “Women rise to this challenge exceptionally well, because we have to, and we are very fashion savvy. But it’s just another highlight of how different the workplace is for younger people who are just trying to move-up and succeed.”

Former event planner Marion Berry wrote on her blog that a female CFO friend of her said, “I had to earn the right to wear red.” Berry said it took this woman, who worked in banking,  25 years of wearing beige, black and grays before she could inject more color. She said it does depend on the industry but she thinks in this day and age, no color is off limits if worn in the right way. If you think a bright pink skirt or shirt would be too much then go for a bright scarf with a grey suit or dress.

Some of the comments on her post were all so quite insightful on the topic. It seems that pink is not a career killer but it is still not welcomed in every industry.

ChiChi said:

“I used to wear pink all the time when I worked in an office setting. I worked in a field on men and I felt it saved a little femininity over the supposed “dominate” sex. Pleh…dominate….they melt at the sight of a pretty woman. Us on the other hand? We have the power to play hard to get. So yes…color rocks…embrace the feminine in a largely “masculine” corporate setting.”

BmoreLoveLeigh said:

“For the first 8 years of my career I stuck to basic black and grey, and I couldn’t imagine wearing red pants or a bright skirt. Regardless of how confident you are, it draws alot of attention in a conservative corporate office like the one I worked in. However, the longer I have been in my career the more confident I have become. I would not hesitate to wear bright colors or skirts without pantyhose or open toed shoes.

Keep in mind, I work in a very conservative field, so it’s probably not this way for most people. In addition, I think bigger cities like Chicago, New York, and LA are less conservative about these things as well.”

Jen said:

“I would love to wear a bright color like pink to work, but it probably wouldn’t go over well. Our handbook states attire is business casual, but mostly everyone is super casual here and even then dress in darker colors. I wore a navy polka dot dress last week and was asked by several people why I was so dressed up.”

Di – City and Burbs said:

“I was at a Women in Technology Forum on Tuesday and our CTO got up on stage wearing a fabulous cream suit, strappy sandals (we were in CA) and her hair was in perfect loose curls. She talked about her passions, including fashion. I have been much bolder in my work outfits in the past year (thanks to blogging), but she just reassured me that it’s ok to like fashion and to show that side of you even in the workplace (in a male dominated field). I have worn pink to the office. It was a shirt underneath a suit. That day, I walked a little taller and spoke a little louder.

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